Running Injuries: How to Stop A Muscle Imbalance Happening And Causing Knee Pain – Paul Gough Physio Rooms

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Running Injuries: How to Stop A Muscle Imbalance Happening And Causing Knee Pain

Something “technical” for keen runners this week…

So, since the summer is almost over, let me talk to you about an injury I’ve seen lots of – especially since the Great North Run has recently come and gone.

Ok, one of the problems that most runners suffer with, if they’re not “thoughtful” that is, is something called a muscle imbalance.

Let me explain:

Basically, too many runners train the same way, on the same paths, for too many nights consecutively and when they do – they get injured! And this weeks column comes from a “real life” story from a client who I got chance to help in my physio clinic this week – Sandra, aged 49 from “Consett” (where it’s very hilly) who came to me suffering with unexplained knee pain.

Now, once Sandra had told me all about her knee pain, I then set about asking her to explain more about her routine. And, once we got into her exercise habits, it was easy to work out that she did a lot of hill runs and this was causing the muscles in her thigh to be stronger than the muscles in her hamstrings.

I’ll show you why that’s a problem for her knee: This difference in strength is caused as the thigh muscles are not only used to run up hill, but also when coming down the other side and so they don’t get much chance to rest (A LOT like the bank that runners come down at Marsden when about to turn to finish the GNR). And, because of this, what we call a “muscle imbalance” around the knee joint happens.

Which is not good!

Why not? Well, a muscle imbalance in your thigh increases the pressure on the knee joint and it happens in a way that is not too dissimilar from that of a door handle being forced down, and then being released.

As your knee bends as you run, one muscle in your leg relaxes to allow it to happen, the other, well, it works hard to make sure that movement can happen.

If either muscle (hamstring or quad) is stronger than it’s opposite, then movement at the knee as you run will either be restricted, or simply not happen – just like a door handle might get stuck or jammed if the hinge isn’t working correctly.

Meaning… the surfaces of the knee joint don’t rub together like they’re supposed too and things like “cartilage damage”, IT Band Syndrome and other painful conditions such as Patella Tendonitis are more likely to happen to you – even more so as you pass the age of 50.

The solution? Simple, vary not just your exercise, but where you do it, too! Doing things like swimming, bike riding, X-trainer, mixed with Yoga, Pilates and other exercises which work different muscles, means you’re going to be working different muscles and give others a rest – which is good!

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need a “complete makeover” of your routine, just a few simple changes that could be as simple as changing the route you map out. More: you could even add a light resistance work out programme to develop other muscles such as your core, which don’t always get a good work out if you’re running on the road night after night. Tip: Road running is great for stamina, not so for strength.

If you have got any knee or sports injuries right now, be sure to claim a copy of my free, special report which shows the BEST ways to get fit quick: It’s 27 pages of advice and is currently available free to Echo readers. Go here: www.paulgoughphysio.com/echo, to claim your copy.

Paul Gough
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